In the distant year of 1997, a movie called Men In Black landed in the movie theatres. I was nine years old, and perfectly ripe for the picking as this movies target audience. This zany sci-fi action film starring Two-Face and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as partner agents saving the world from giant bug aliens reeled me in like a catfish on fly season, and who could blame me? It was unique, funny, action packed, had spectacular alien and weapon designs, and to this day, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith stand tall as one if not THE most memorable buddy cop paring I have ever seen.
Yeah, I cannot even begin to express just how obsessed with this movie I was. Apart from watching the movie on VHS over a thousand times, I watched the not-really-good-but-still-fun cartoon series on Kids WB and still remember a handful of episodes fondly, my buddy and I from Elementary school played MIB every day at PE, I owned the nuralizer toy, and to my own embarrassment, I even performed Will Smith’s MIB rap during the talent show of our summer camping trip (which my mom recorded on video tape, rendering any chance I had of forgetting that dreadful moment of my childhood hopeless. Plus I’m like the whitest white boy in the world, so watching me try to rap like Will Smith…damn.)
Anyway, five years pass, and a sequel comes out, and…well, that happened. I was a freshmen in high school at the time, so I liked it alright, but nowadays… yeah it hasn’t aged nearly as well for me.
Ten years after that, and here we are. I am now a semi-professional film critic here at Toy-TMA, and I have the bittersweet duty to presenting my professional opinion of the franchises third and latest installment, Men In Black 3 (or as the logo would suggest, MIB Cubed). Short version, it’s…better than the 2nd one, I’ll give it that. Long version…
Our story begins on a maximum security prison on the moon in which, on the count of a pair of guards acting pants on head retarded, one of the prisons most deadly criminals, Boris the Animal, escapes after 40 years of confinement. Coming to the surprise of no one, he wants revenge against the MIB agent who looked him in there in the first place, quite convenientl our costar agent K. Boris travels back in time to kill K before he is imprisoned, rewriting an entire history under his victory. For reasons that I have already forgotten/didn’t care to remember (something stupid about chocolate milk) Agent J –who technically shouldn’t even be in the MIB if K died, because that was who recruited him in the first place– still remembers the original timeline, and proceeds to get his own time jumpy machine to chase after Boris in 1969 and save his partner from his untimely death.
From this point the movie moves from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones trade verbal blows and extraterrestrial slapstick and everyone laughs, to Will Smith and Josh Brolin posing as late 20’s Tommy Lee Jones trade verbal blows and extraterrestrial slapstick and everyone laughs. It is as this point were I must comment on this movie’s most impressive development, and that is just how convincing a performance Brolin gives as the young Agent K. I heard that he had done a lot of studying Smith and Jones’ chemistry to get this part right, and honestly, it more than paid off. Brolin has this part down to the point where his tone and speech patterns are almost an exact replica of Tommy Lee Jones.
So yes, Brolin and Smith carry on the K/J shtick quite proudly, and I’d be lying if I said that there was no part in the movie that wasn’t worth a few laughs, but that’s something we always knew would be in this franchise. What else we got? Well, they couldn’t get Rip Torn to come ba__I mean Zeb passes away off screen and is replaced with this new girl, Agent O, which would be fine if the movie gave her anything to do. She’s set up to have this “romantic” history with K, but the movie never fully realizes that part of the plot. It’s just vaguely hinted at. We never get to find out if they were ever officially dating, how long, or why they aren’t really a thing nowadays, it’s just half assed. Another plot point that was half assed was Boris the Animal’s connection to K. The two are suppose to have like this old relationship where they use to be friends, and thus why K couldn’t kill him in the first place, and why instead, Boris spent 40 years in prison. Not once does the movie give them a scene together where they even converse for more than two sentences, so the tension and connection between the two opposing characters is pretty much nonexistent. Oh and lets not forget Bill Hader showing up as Andy Warhol because, in all honesty, the famous-celebrity-secretly-involved-in-the-alien-cover-up joke never get’s old.
All the weapons pretty much do the exact thing you remember them doing: shoot bluish-green beams that turn their targets into slimmer sploodge. There’s no return of some of the wilder ones like the Noisy Cricket or the laser cannons with the power to shoot down flying saucers. Though I will say the Nuralizers have been updated from their old models. Before, they used to flash red, now they flash blue. I know, isn’t that an incredible development that is so integral to the plot of these movies?
What bugs me most about MIB3 is that its so obviously trying to take itself seriously, and show us some big ideas for the franchise, but it just never fully conceives them. The idea of a MIB movie set in the late 60’s sounds intriguing, but besides a few short gags about “how big” all the mobile gadgets use to be, it just wasn’t all that believable that they were in the past, especially with the painfully forced “historically accurate” racism jokes that don’t ever go anywhere important. There is a point in the present where if K is killed, the Planetary Defense System is never put in place, allowing Boris to bring his entire people to invade Earth. We get teased early on of a massive invasion, but then it never happens, leading only to a very uneventful climax where K and J fight young and old Boris on a launch platform. What gives? Did the creators watch The Avengers, and realize there was no way they could pull off a large scale alien invasion as well as they did, so they didn’t even bother to try? Come on. Will Smith fending off a giant CGI cockroach with a flaming tree branch was more exciting than this.
If there was one saving grace, the one oracle character named Griffin who could see all the past, presents, and futures of every dimension was a lot of fun. But it makes me ask, what happened to the history where Men In Black 3 was every bit as good as the original and lived up to all best movies of this Summer and not just crusing along, barely good enough to appease your nostalgic audience and make a quick buck. Oh wait…
As harsh as I’m being, the average audience member will probably like MIB3 just fine. Even I didn’t think it was bad, just that it was average. The only difference is for me, as far as the MIB franchise is concerned, Average is a disappointment, because with talent like Smith and Jones taking the reigns, it has the potential to be so much more. Especially given the huge sci-fi competition it is going to be getting in a few weeks when Prometheus finally hits theatres. The last thing the Men In Black want now is to be yet another victim of the underwhelming 3rd Movie Curse.